Startup: Launchspace Technologies Corporation
Security type: Common stock
Round size: Up to $1.07 million
Share price: $100.26
Minimum investment: $100.26
Investment portal: Netcapital
Deadline: November 8, 2021
Startup investors love big problems. The bigger the problem, the more rewarding the investment opportunity.
Right now, it’s the best of times for startup investors. We’re facing huge problems, from climate change to a global pandemic. But one of the biggest is a problem you’ve probably never heard of.
It’s junk in space. Space debris is reaching dangerous levels. Floating about 500 miles above us are thousands of dead satellites and millions of spacecraft parts.
Current technology solutions focus on tracking orbital debris from Earth. But it’s a deeply flawed approach. Yes, we can see and track intact satellites and larger pieces of debris. But we’re absolutely blind when it comes to smaller orbital debris between 1 millimeter and 2 centimeters in size. Even that tiny debris can damage and destroy satellites and harm the International Space Station. There’s no doubt that this poses a serious threat to human spaceflight in the years to come. By 2030, experts say there will be 1 trillion pieces of this small debris orbiting the Earth.
Making things worse, we’re entering a period of accelerated satellite growth. 100,000 satellites are expected to be in low Earth orbits by 2030, and current solutions to safely track and manage them are inadequate.
Can you imagine building a city the size of New York but not including any traffic lights, crosswalks or stop signs? And then not having any way to clear the streets of stalled vehicles or any junk that’s left there?
Of course not. Not only would it be unsafe, but it would also bring down NYC’s $1 trillion-plus economy.
Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing to the increasingly crowded low Earth orbits. And it threatens to bring down a thriving space commerce industry worth $420 billion now… $1 trillion in the next five years… and $2 trillion to $3 trillion in the next 10 years.
But it’s not too late to do something about it.
In a little less than two years, Airbus will launch the world’s most promising technology to fix this problem. The solution embodies technology that can both track and remove orbital debris. At least, that’s the idea. It will be loaded onto the International Space Station’s Bartolomeo platform, which offers the station’s only unobstructed view of both Earth and outer space. And there it will stay for a year’s time, testing out the capabilities of a highly sophisticated orbital debris removal solution. Its orbital debris impact pads — which are designed to “gently” catch space junk so that there is no debris splatter from the impact — will also be undergoing tests.
But this is not Airbus’ technology. This technology is being developed (and licensed) by an amazing high-tech startup called Launchspace Technologies Corporation.
No other company is doing what Launchspace is. There are some companies focused on large orbital debris removal, which has been the conventional approach to the problem of space debris. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do nearly enough to fix the problem. And what large space debris removal does do may not even be necessary.
Why not let spacecraft and the International Space Station simply maneuver around large debris? The data on free-floating space debris that Launchspace plans on providing to governments and private satellite companies will make this a relatively routine matter. Only selective removal of large orbital debris should be necessary.
The much harder task — and the one that’s actually critical — is the tracking and removal of much smaller debris.
It seems the U.S. government agrees. It has rightly designated resolving the space debris problem as one of the nation’s top-level needs. And that means, among other things, that the government will prioritize supporting solutions to this problem. That includes aiding the development of promising technologies.
Which is why NASA is helping Launchspace develop advanced lightweight material for its orbital debris removal solution. Next, Launchspace is aiming to work with the government to put sensor satellites into space. These sensor satellites will allow us to better track space debris and all of the existing and new satellites that will be in orbit in the next 10 years.
If this deal comes to fruition, Launchspace would be given a highly sensitive $50 million-plus sensor (and possibly a second one). And it has helped prod Airbus to share its payload capacity — an in-kind contribution of more than $5 million.
The Launchspace sensor satellites could also provide our government with data about threats to our national security satellites. The Space Force and the Department of Defense have indicated to Launchspace that they could favor a low Earth orbit solution for detecting and tracking threats from adversaries.
Launchspace has saved millions of dollars as a result of its early government partnerships. But more than that, the help it’s gotten from myriad government entities demonstrates the high regard they have for Launchspace’s efforts.
That shouldn’t be too surprising. It has by far the best approach to the space debris problem. Its technology is sound and holds great promise. And its co-founders are deeply experienced. CEO John Bauman is a serial entrepreneur and product developer in businesses that have intellectual property over satellites, microelectronics, broadband and more.
And CTO Marshall Kaplan is in a class of his own. He has driven innovation in the space and satellites industries for decades. Way back in July 1979, his advice aided NASA’s efforts in getting Skylab — the first U.S. space station — to fall harmlessly into the Indian Ocean.
Marshall was a Penn State University professor. He’s had stints at the Institute for Defense Analyses and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He’s been a senior adviser to NASA and the Department of Defense on space missions and policies. He’s also an inventor of several patents on sustaining the space environment. Marshall has earned his reputation as one of the space industry’s leading lights.
A Great Start to a Long Journey
Launchspace is off to a strong start. But its journey is just beginning. It will be several more years before its technology becomes operational. That’s the best-case scenario. Its technology may also flunk its year-long test on the International Space Station. To mitigate that risk, Launchspace is first doing ground-based testing by firing materials from “hypervelocity impact guns” at its debris impact pads.
But if all goes according to plan, its first sensor satellite would go into orbit in three years. A small scale orbital debris removal spacecraft would go into orbit in the next three and a half years. And the final (and larger) version of the orbital debris removal spacecraft would go into orbit in 2027.
By 2030, Launchspace plans on having six fully operational orbital debris removal spacecraft… and many more after that. Launchspace also plans to have three sensor satellites in orbit in five years for an eventual planned buildout of 24 to 26 sensor satellites.
At thousands of images per day and charging $0.50 to $20 per image, each sensor satellite could make Launchspace hundreds of millions of dollars during its lifetime. Revenue shouldn’t be a problem.
The upside is big, perhaps even massive. The technology risk is also real. It is not yet proven. But if anybody can devise an effective space debris remediation solution, it’s Marshall. The technology may not be perfect yet. But with Marshall aboard, Launchspace should be able to figure things out.
Space is a hard sector to succeed in. And upsides tend to be more illusionary than real. But that’s not the case here. Launchspace has a real chance of achieving great — perhaps even spectacular — success.
How to Invest
Go to the Launchspace Technologies investment page on Netcapital.com. If you don’t have an account on Netcapital, you’ll be prompted to create one. Then follow the steps and fill out the required information. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Then click on the orange “Invest” button.
Now choose the payment method that works best for you to transfer the funds. Your money will be held by an escrow agent until the deal closes, when it will be transferred to Launchspace, and you will officially own a piece of this exciting, innovative space technology company.
This opportunity, like all early-stage investments, is risky. Early-stage investments often fail. Launchspace might need to raise another round of funding in a year or two, if not sooner.
If it executes well, this shouldn’t be a problem. But that’s a risk worth considering when investing in early-stage companies. The investment you’re making is NOT liquid. However, Netcapital does allow secondary trading on its portal after a holding period of one year for retail investors. It might be less for accredited investors. Expect to hold your position for five to 10 years. An earlier exit is always possible but should not be expected.
All that said, I believe Launchspace offers an attractive risk-reward ratio.